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Coaching and Cueing Tips: “Knees Out” During Squats

By January 16, 2013January 11th, 2014Coaching Tips

Here is a video that discusses some coaching tips including:

  • Why a trainer/strength coach should always demonstrate proper form and what a particular cue means prior to having the client/athlete perform the exercise
  • Why a trainer/strength coach should ask a client/athlete what cue they’d come up with to ensure proper exercise performance based on their particular movement tendencies
  • Why the “knees out” cue can easily lead to the client/athlete simply widening their stance
  • How to demonstrate the “knees out” cue effectively prior to having the client/athlete squat
  • Where valgus collapse most commonly occurs during the squat movement

Hope you enjoy the video!


  • Pasadena says:

    Thanks a lot for this video. I always think about keeping my knees where they’re supposed to be all the way down…. and then forget them. Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons the first inches up are so frigging hard. Knees cave in, hips shut down, butt shut down, squatter struggles until the quads can take over ? Right ?

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Try goblet squatting around your toilet. I’m not being a crude, or a wise guy. Do NOT touch the porcelain on the way down or the way back up.

      What, you mean you don’t happen to have a toilet laying around your weight room? Ha ha..OK, take a 12″ step box and “squat around it”. Any appropriately sized barrier will work. Or you could hold a small swiss ball, medicine ball, (or your pet, or small child!) and squat down and touch the floor with it, which will force you to keep your legs apart.

      (Yes, I’m a bit of a mad scientist with this stuff!)

      • Derrick Blanton says:

        Here’s another one that may be of some use:

        Squat barefoot. Place two thin bottle caps, under the lateral portion of the heels just before the ball of the foot. You should be able to feel them solidly under your heels, but they should not cause discomfort. Focus on “crushing” the caps as you SQ, and particularly as you ascend. Literally try to crush the caps into powder. Your knees cannot go valgus if you are applying enough force on the outside portion of the heel.

        Good luck! DB

        P.S: Great vid, BC! I think you hit the nail on the head about learning how to “speak your client’s language of cueing”! They can’t be decoding information while trying to move!

  • afromuscle says:

    I’ll be doing these today and I also noticed that if I push my knees out, I can comfortably squat with my feet a lot less pointed out. My coach keeps telling me not to point them out so much.

    Great tip!


  • Feta says:

    Hi Brad.
    Why is it that people have valgus? Is it because of too weak hip outward rotation muscles?

  • TasGR says:

    What’s the biomechanical justification of Kelly Starret’s premise of knees/foot looking forward during a deep or parallel squat?

    • Bret says:

      I need to address this in a future post too!

    • Robert Wynne says:

      I recall reading a comment by Kstar in reply to a criticism on this point. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of: “I’ve never advocated a feet-facing-DIRECTLY-forward stance and typically recommend a foot angle of around 5-15 degrees or so, based on their current mobility levels.” If you ever watch him or his athlete’s squat, you’ll see that their feet are relatively straight forward (but NOT completely perpendicular to the frontal plane); however, their knees ARE tracking well outside the feet. Here’s video proof: …So to be accurate: he’s never taught a “premise of knees/foot looking forward.” Especially not, “knees” forward. Bret, I trust that you’ll do research on what he’s actually recommending before posting on it. Thank you for hearing me out!

      • Derrick Blanton says:

        “Feet should be as straight at possible to generate as much torque as possible. The knee can be completely safe and effective with somewhere between 3-7 degrees of foot turn out.”

        I like OLY coach, Greg Everett’s take on the matter.

        Rippetoe advocates 30-degree turnout.

        My take: one size fits all doesn’t always work with form cues. Don’t try to force positions on your body, especially under load, which conflict with your anthropometry. We all have slightly different anatomical structure.

        I tend to toe out about 10-20 degrees, depending on how wide I’m squatting. Worth noting that I also had to wear braces as a baby to correct excessive varus leg structure, (bowlegs).

        What everyone seems to agree on is to make sure the knees don’t track inwards, whatever the toe-out angle. FWIW.

  • Feta says:

    Or maybe because of different structural positions in the ankle, tibia/fibula and femur..
    Nice to hear your opinion on this.

  • Ran says:

    What’s the name of the blue exercise box in the pic at the bottom of this article?

  • John says:

    Two observations, one personal and the other when coaching. I have a residual L5 radiculopathy in my left leg from an L5 discectomy that had my sciatic nerve pinched off for a couple of months. Drop foot and a medius that did not fire at all. The medius fires now but I have to concentrate to get it timed right to stop the valgus wobble. I use a band to force my knee to resist the valgus move and get my medius to fire through the entire move.
    When coaching I demo the move. If they still exhibit valgus in one or both knees I will barely place a finger tip outside each knee for them to push against to stay dialed in to keep the knees tracking properly. This usually only takes one time unless there is an underlying movement impairement that needs work.

  • Alana says:

    Hi Bret,
    Great video; I think I was doing my squats the wrong way so thanks for sharing this! Now, I usually do mine with dumbbells, and I’ve found that they really do a number on the shoulder muscles. Is there any way I can protect the muscles between my shoulders when doing these?

    • Blake says:


      When holding any heavy weight, especially a static hold, make sure to set your shoulders back or place them in their gurdle. It should look like your sticking your chest out with your shoulders back and slightly down. This will insure an anatomically correct and safe position.

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